For citizens of Turkey, the past decade has been one fraught with anxiety that the wolf of instability is right at the door. To the southeast, the war in Iraq has made the Kurdish minority even more restive and demanding of greater autonomy or even statehood; the Iranian mullahs on the eastern border continue their path of nuclear-tipped aggression; the warring factions in the Caucasus on the northeast border are continuing their fight against Russia and each other.

However, the heat has been turned up sharply in the past 18 months.

To the west, traditional foe and European Union partner Greece has become an economic black hole, with sky-high unemployment and an austerity plan that threatens the social fabric. And to the south, the biggest threat: The ongoing civil war in Syria that has pushed thousands of refugees to the border and heightened tensions among both nations' militaries.

If there is anything the government of Turkey would want right now it's stability, even a return to a more conservative time where there was more certainty.

Unfortunately in the urban centers of Turkey, most notably in Istanbul, the freedoms ushered in with Western economic vitality have created expectations that change is something not to be feared but to be embraced.

The trigger point was a plan by the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to redevelop a park into a military center that would evoke the memories of the Ottoman Empire, but the middle class in cities across the country have picked up the banner of protest against policies that inject conservative, Islamic ideals on the populace.

Could it bring down the government? Unlikely, but the weakening of a government allied with the United States could open the door to those political factions that are not nearly as friendly to American interests.

Perhaps the biggest help the United States could offer would be support for the government in dealing with its external issues while at the same time offering mediation to help government leaders deal with the conflicts the country suffers internally.

The United States does not have a perfect record when dealing with its own internal struggles between secular groups and religious conservatives, but it has been able to find compromise on some issues and work around those issues where compromise is impossible. Such a history could be a beneficial example to our strongest Islamic ally.


A Turkish boy looks at destroyed shops in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, June 3, 2013. Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Monday again dismissed
A Turkish boy looks at destroyed shops in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, June 3, 2013. Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Monday again dismissed street protests against his rule as actions organized by extremists, qualified them as a temporary blip, and angrily rejected comparisons with the Arab Spring uprisings. Appearing defensive and angry, and cutting a disconnected figure, he lashed out at reporters who asked whether the government had understood "the message" by protesters airing grievances or whether he would soften his tone.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici) (Burhan Ozbilici)